6-Step Succession Planning Process

The succession planning process is dynamic – as organizational needs change, the succession process must evolve as well. It is important to consider how employee aspirations and talents can be aligned with the internal and external environment of the organization [1]. A robust succession planning process provides a roadmap for success, ensuring the necessary structure to support effective, efficient, and consistent communication and implementation throughout all levels of the organization.

Our Sample Succession Planning Process below provides a high-level overview of what is required at each stage of the process along with some helpful succession planning tools to get you started.

SIGMA’s 6 Key Steps to Steer the Succession Planning Process

1. Identify Critical Roles

There is typically no shortage of leadership roles that would benefit from succession planning.  However, it is critical to take a measured approach when introducing succession planning into an organization for the first time.  With this in mind, the first step in the succession planning process is to identify those roles your organization should target based on urgency and criticality to the business.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Critical Role Identification Questionnaire


2. Build Success Profile

Once you’ve narrowed down the need to your most critical positions, you can then focus on understanding the requirements of each role. At this stage of succession planning, we define the talent composition required for success by incorporating present and future needs. This step will provide you with information on the knowledge, skills, and abilities you should consider for each role when selecting and developing future leaders.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Success Profile, Leadership Skills Profile – Revised, MEIA-W-R


3. Nominate Successors

Once you have developed an understanding of which competencies are important for success in a critical role, we can begin to nominate potential succession candidates for this position. Results from the nomination survey are used to populate a draft Succession Bench that groups successors based on their readiness and provides an ‘eye-test’ measure of bench strength for the incumbent’s role.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Succession Nomination Survey, Succession Bench Summary


4. Assess Development Needs

The nomination survey is only the first step in evaluating your bench strength.  There is an incredible opportunity at this stage in the process of succession planning to add objectivity through scientifically validated leadership assessments.  Assessments do not replace an evaluation of the candidate’s history and experience, but rather, they add an objective perspective to understanding candidate strengths and development opportunities. All succession plans should incorporate scientifically-validated assessments to better understand each candidate’s readiness for future roles.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Candidate Profile, Leadership Skills Profile – Revised,  MEIA-W-R


5. Develop Talent

To make your succession plan truly effective, you should leverage assessment results to create a development plan for each potential successor. These plans will help candidates close any gaps in their skills and/or experience and help them progress in their readiness to fill future roles. This is where the work comes in, as we manage individual development plans for each candidate, and track completed development activities. We recommend creating a development plan for, at a minimum, all your high-potential succession candidates. In a perfect world, you would have development plans in place for your entire Succession Bench.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Development Plan, Development Activities Tracker, Executive Coaching


6. Measure Progress

Tracking measurable progress indicators and regularly sharing the results with key stakeholders demonstrates the value of your succession plan and keeps its importance on top of mind. Get started by looking at which metrics can be easily measured in your organization. Record the numbers from these metrics when you begin your succession plan and revisit them regularly. Set a calendar reminder to review, compare and communicate progress every six months. Even if you only track one metric, get in the habit of recording it, attaching a dollar value if possible, and conveying that to your stakeholders.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Talent Progress Scorecard


Begin the Succession Planning Process

SIGMA’s Succession Planning Launch Series can help. The Succession Planning Launch Series offers a simple way for you to build a robust succession planning process to ensure your organization’s leadership is positioned for success and prepared for the unknown.

To get started, complete our quick Succession Planning Checklist to measure the maturity level of your succession process and discover which areas within your succession plan need to be improved.



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[1] Clutterbuck, D., & Goldsmith, M. (2012). The talent wave: Why succession planning fails and what to do about it. Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page Limited.



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